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Opinions of Thursday, 15 October 2020

Columnist: Evans Ago Tetteh, Ph.D.

Boundary dispute between Kpone and Prampram (Gbugbla); Implications of the 1924 Supreme Court judgement

Evans Ago Tetteh is the writer of the opinion piece Evans Ago Tetteh is the writer of the opinion piece

A family in Prampram called the Osudoku Wem has for years made claim to portions of land belonging to the people of Kpone. They have hired hooligans to terrorize residents long the Kpone-Prampram boundary, especially those on the starboard side of the Laloi lagoon; but are they justified in this unwonted action?

This is a summary of a Supreme Court ruling given on 3rd March 1924 by His Worship H.S Newlands Esquire, Deputy Commissioner of the Eastern Province of the Gold Coast.

This action had Mantse Boi Abbey of Prampram as Plaintiff and Mantse Tettey Sackey (of the Ati We Royal clan) of Poni (Kpone) as the Defendant.

The planting of coconuts by the Prampram people near the Laloi lagoon on land claimed by the Kpones (Ponis) started the action but the real point at issue was the question of the ownership of the Laloi lagoon and its tributaries.

The case was first heard at the Tribunal of the Omanhene of Akwapim but an appeal was lodged at the Supreme Court against it on 23rd March 1921 because the defendant adduced to the fact that an unfair trial was given. Indeed, the judged agreed by saying "I cannot but regard the fact of this case having been heard in Akwapim as other than unfortunate. The parties do not speak Twi and this necessitated the use of more or less competent interpreters while Akan native customary law which is observed in Akwapim is largely dissimilar to Ga native customary law".

In September 1922, the plaintiff was destooled as Prampram Mantse and one Osabu Botchway, acting Mantse of Prampram was substituted for him on 23rd February 1923.

During the trial, counsel for the defendant refused to accept a claim that the defendant made claim to the following rivers and lagoons;

1. Brokotor
2. Mlagu
3. Suta Laloidor
4. Detsedor
5. Doenyo Kpe
6. Agblobote
7. Dorhoe
8. Kpotokpotodor

It was later found out that Kpotokpotodor is also named as Ntrawa Ntrawa and that under that name, it is in fact claimed by the defendant. The Tribunal was indeed wrong in supporting the Plaintiff's claim that the people of Prampram had been settled on the land in dispute before the advent of the Poni (Kpones). It appeared from Exibit J that the Ponis (Kpones) are members of the Aboriginal tribe settled on the land lying between Osu and Prampram. Defendant alleged that the people of Prampram (Gbugbla) are strangers brought on English slave ships from the Bights after the abolishment of the slave trade and that the Ponis (Kpones) actually shared boundary with the Ningos before the whole of Gbugbla (Prampram) was annexed for the settlement of freed slaves.

Whereas the Plaintiff claimed that the Pramprams came from "Tetetutu", a place where the Accras and Shais also descended from, the judge disagreed with the Plaintiff and asserted that the Pramprams settled in Prampram after the Les (who include the Lakples and the Kpones) had taken possession of the country between Osu and Prampram and that the Pramprams, being allied to the Jamestown people are like them comparatively recent arrivals within the Ga division and that in so far as priority of settlement is concerned, the tribunal was wrong in not upholding the Kpones claim to have been the earlier settlers.

The evidence led concerning the worship of the Laloi fetish clearly establishes that both Kpone and Prampram participate actively therein. This was admitted by the plaintiff's first witness, Nartey Adjoka (the then Laloi fetish priest), who told the court that the Kpones furnish a bullock for the annual custom together with two bottles of rum and that the chief of Kpone attends the custom himself or sends representatives. The judge further postulated that the evidence of the Laloi fetish priest called as a witness by the plaintiff must be accepted with respect to these facts and that for the Tribunal then, in spite of this evidence, to decree that the Kpones gave a "cow" to the fetish and the Laloi belongs to the plaintiff is not justified. Furthermore, the judge also held that the joint tribal interest in the Laloi fetish was admitted by the Laloi priest and that fact alone is sufficient to render the Tribunal's findings that it was the accident of propinquity to Laloi which conferred upon the Kpones the right to supply the cow for its annual custom untenable.

After carefully comparing the two plans put in evidence in order to ascertain whether the land delineated on the plan of 1885/86 (Exibit B) is within the area enclosed by the green line and the Westerly black line in the survey department's plan, the judge ruled that land on the left side of the green line belongs to the Kpone people (this includes present day DEVTRACO and P.S Global).

In furtherance of the above, the judge held that the weight of the evidence, as well as the balance of probability, appeared to rest with the account given by the Kpones and that the Kpones were on the land when the Pramprams arrived and their principal means of subsistence must have been centred in the fishing in the Laloi lagoon. It was, therefore, inconceivable that they would give this away to the first strangers who came among them.

It is, therefore, surprising that after 96 years, a single family would lay claim to land that their forefathers were actually strangers on.
I hope the lands commission would step in to solve this issue amicably.